student in library with books

The Changing Paradigm of the College Education

Concepts from a talk given by Jose Antonio Bowen at the International Educational Consultants Association which I attended this past week.

Since we have access to more knowledge on our cell phones than some college libraries possess, and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are being offered free, what should students be getting by going to a four year college? What needs to change in the education system to make college more relevant?  How should they prepare our children for the careers which have not been realized, but will be significant in a decade? Which skills will be valued in the workforce of the future? Is the way that most colleges teach accomplishing what employers say they want?

Last year the major with the highest starting salary was petroleum engineering, and if you had a minor or double major in Arabic you were being hired out of colleges with starting salaries up to $80K. What has happened since then? With the price of gas low, the oil companies have just stopped hiring, and in many cases are laying people off. So what does this mean about majors and having more breadth?

Majors are just not as relevant in our future society, because the average college educated Gen Y will probably change careers, not just jobs, at least five times in their lifetime. Given that scenario your major is far less important than mastering higher order thinking, and the other skills that you derive from your education.

Employers state that they want employees who can write effectively, solve complex problems in peer groups, present information efficiently, and analyze data. Are college classrooms set up for these outcomes? In most cases the answer is no.

People who choose to be doctors, dentists, and a few other specialties are more likely to spend a lifetime in the same role, but there are thousands of lawyers working outside of law practices many even doing college consulting. Innovation and change has never taken such quantum leaps in so little time, but our educational system is not adapting.

What should a college offer which will improve student learning?

According to Bowen:

Face-to-face interactions between professors and students

Meaningful discussions and useful engagement should be done in class, with technology used outside of the classroom to prepare for discussions

Opportunities for in-class engagement through group work and presentations

Questioning which inspires students to view issues from multiple dimensions and change their opinions

Great mentors who engage and inspire students

Internship opportunities inside and outside of college so each student understands the working world and the possibilities

Significant learning will be job specific and will constantly change

My conclusion is that students thrive when they connect through communities of learning and action. What students’ major in is of less consequence than finding a college where they will be involved in all aspects of learning. Colleges which encourage students to innovate, be involved, and take intellectual risks will produce better thinkers and more competent employees.

 

Summer Activities that Give You an Edge – Part 2

Part 2

Internships

Internships are wonderful because they can give you great insight into what you would like to do for a living, as well as what you do not enjoy. The more internships you are able to participate in, the more marketable you will be, and the better you will understand your strengths and the type of work environment that you will thrive in. Start by looking at jobs within a sector which interests you. Talk to everyone you know about your interest and see if you can find connections with people who can introduce you with the appropriate people. Have your parents’ help, the more people who know what you are looking for, the higher your probability of success. If you can’t find a paid job, consider non-profits who always need unpaid staff and see if there is a position which aligns with your interest. Ask if your favorite high school teacher has a project which you would want to do over the summer. If your parents have a business maybe you can run their social media, or take on a project that they want done, but don’t have time to implement. Try a local lab or college and find something of interest. Work on a personal project which will differeniate you.

Leadership

Colleges want leaders of all kinds. Finding venues where you can learn about the trials and tribulations of leadership is a great growth experience. This means offering to spearhead a project, running for an elected position, or working hard to be named captain or co-captain of a team. Start a club that your school does not have, and build it. Leadership is not for everyone, but if you try you will undoubtedly learn something from every experience. Maryland Leadership Workshop is a weeklong camp

where the “staff strives to empower teens to be the leaders they want to be in their community and agents of positive change in society.” I have had a few students who have participated and found it to be extremely worthwhile and fun. https://www.mlw.org/index.php/programs/summer-core-programs/senior-high-workshops-shw. They have an application and the deadline is coming up soon.

Camps

Many students attend camps of all kinds or run their own camp. I have had numerous students run a camp with friends, for younger children. Not only have they made a lot of money, but they master a lot of skills to make it work. College admissions officers likes seeing this because of the multi-faceted elements.

Some students attend camps for their sport, which allows them to improve, and get seen by coaches from colleges which interest them. Others go to a camp to learn something new or show colleges their academic prowess (see Learning from Part 1). If you would like to test drive a college campus, or see if you do want to pursue a certain career, there are opportunities available on many college campuses – just use Google or another search engine.  Here are some of the most prestigious camps in the U.S. and one needs to apply for them:

(TASP) A Telluride Association Summer Program is a free six-week educational experience for high school juniors that offers challenges and rewards rarely encountered in secondary school or even college. Each program is designed to bring together young people from around the world who share a passion for learning. Summer Program for Juniors (TASP) – Telluride Association It is very competitive to get into.

Boys Nation Two outstanding representatives from each of 48 Boys States are called upon to represent their state at American Legion Boys Nation in Washington, DC. It is here that the young leaders who had excelled at their respective Boys States are introduced to the structure and function of the federal government.

Also see Maryland Leadership Workshop above.

Talents

Enter contests in whatever interests you, whether it is writing, math, music, languages, dance, or photography. Share your talents with the community. Whatever groups you belong to see if there are opportunities to use your aptitudes to benefit others. Book your band to play at a Relay for Life, or have your theater group put on performances for special need kids. Ask a coffee shop to hang your photographs up on their walls. Find ways to make a difference in the lives of others by sharing what you do with the community at large. The more exposure and experiences you have the more appealing you become.

Summer gives you more than ten weeks. Find multiple ways to explore your potential.

Summer Activities that Give You an Edge – Part 1

Part 1

Passion

Pursuing something that you are passionate about not only provides you with depth, but also expands your scope. If you are an avid lacrosse player who loves the game, maybe teaching it to underprivileged younger students would bring you satisfaction. To make the experience possible you could start a donation program where you collect lacrosse sticks, clothing and shoes from other teams to donate to the new players. Gathering these donations from your league, school, or religious institution will set you apart. Maybe you are a runner who believes in raising money for cancer and therefore starts a new race to help support breast cancer. These activities take time, but they allow you to develop many skills and show colleges how beneficial you would be on their campus.

Learning

Taking a class or two in an academic subject of interest can be another way to stand out in the college process. MOOCs are relatively new and an absolutely free way to learn from college professors. Wikipedia’s definition: A massive open online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as filmed lectures, readings, and problem sets, many MOOCs provide interactive user forums to support community interactions between students, professors, and teaching assistants. See httpss://www.mooc-list.com/.

Community colleges are an inexpensive way to take classes, and many top colleges offer classes on their campuses, which is a pricier alternative. There is a myth that taking a course on the campus that you are interested in, will give you an advantage when it comes to getting into that college. Generally this is not the case, however it will give you insight into whether you like the location and the feel of the school. Remember however that the weather may be very different. On-line classes or an independent study project are also great options.

Volunteering

If you have not done any meaningful volunteering, the summer offers lots of time to change that. Colleges love to see students volunteer because it shows them that you will be a meaningful part of their community once you enroll. Giving back also has many rewards which are important in human development. Find an area of interest and then look for opportunities. Here are some websites to look at:https://marylandvolunteercenters.org/ a general listing, httpss://www.mdfoodbank.org/volunteer/ ; helping animals https://www.mdspca.org/volunteer/.

A Job

Many students opt to make money by lifeguarding, working in a retail store, or another environment. Colleges like to see students have jobs because it shows a good work ethic. If you can find a way to distinguish yourself in your position by improving the system, that is even better. For example, I had a student who was a lifeguard at a pool which did not have recycling, so she instituted a recycling program by picking up the yellow bins. Because the county would not pick up from the pool area, she brought the recycling back to her home. That was wonderful dedication and we highlighted that in her application. She was accepted into every college and received significant merit aid from many schools, for that and other accomplishments. More importantly she felt proud that her efforts improved our environment.

The most important thing to do in the summer is something which you feel will help you grow and discover your strengths. Look at gaps that you have in your college profile and try a new activity. Do something meaningful and worthwhile during the summer, along with relaxing and enjoying some sunshine.

The Congressional Awards Program

Congressional Awards Program is a very unique and brilliant program where you lay out your goals and with the help of an advisor and validators you accomplish those objectives.

“The Congressional Award, a public-private partnership, established by Congress in 1979 under Public Law 96-114, is a non-competitive program open to young people ages 14-23, regardless of mental or physical challenges, or socioeconomic status. The Congressional Award Foundation teaches participants to set and achieve personally challenging goals that build character, and foster community service, personal development, and citizenship.” (from Congressional Award: Congress’ Award for Youth)

Each level involves setting goals in four program areas; Volunteer Public Service, Personal Development, Physical Fitness, and Expedition/Exploration. Earning the Award is a fun and interesting way to get more involved in something you already enjoy or something you’d like to try for the first time. You move at your own pace – on your own or with your friends. This is not an award for past accomplishments. Instead, you are honored for achieving your own challenging goals.

Colleges look at how you spend your time outside of class, and this is a way to quantify what you are doing, as well as stretch your abilities in other areas. It is an excellent method for students to assess themselves, and make decisions about where they might improve. It allows students to challenge themselves and have a way to measure their development. The Congressional Awards program offers the opportunity for distinction to students by giving them the ability to earn a bronze, silver and gold medal award.

Participation in this program involves you setting and achieving goals that are personally challenging, achievable, worthwhile, measurable, and fulfilling in the areas of:

  • Community Service
  • Personal Growth
  • Physical Fitness
  • Expedition/Exploration

You will need to find an advisor who can be encouraging and engaged and helpful in finding validators. It should be someone who you admire, and has the time to help you to find worthwhile goals and check in on your progress.

Please look at the website and see if it interests you, https://congressionalaward.org/program/.

woman filling out form

Should You Fill Out the FAFSA?

Should you fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)? Many experts say yes, because money is available and having filed it initially gives you more options.

Most Colleges only require that you fill out the FAFSA to qualify for financial aid, but some also require the CSS Profile.

The form is filled out online at:  httpss://fafsa.ed.gov.  

Some great reasons to fill out the FASFA

  1. Your student may qualify for aid, and may receive it from an institution (although every situation is unique).
  2. Some internal school scholarships are predicated on having filled out the FAFSA.
  3. It allows your child to take out a Stafford loan, which is low interest, and gives your student a stake in this expensive endeavor.
  4. If you have more children that will be going to college while this student is, your chances of receiving aid in the following years is much higher.

Is filling out the FAFSA difficult?

No – the Obama administration has had it streamlined significantly so it should take about 30 minutes.

What do you need before filling it out?

  1. A pin number that you should put into a safe, accessible place.
  2. Your most recent tax return. It’s important to fill out the FAFSA as early as possible in after October 1st.
  3. Almost every College has different deadlines by which your FAFSA information needs to be filed in order for you to get the available money. Check the dates by going to each college’s website, or just fill it out by January 1st and be ahead of the game.
  4.  List every school that your student wants to apply to in alphabetical order. This has been a big controversy lately, as some colleges decide how much money to give you based on where they are ranked by your student. Alphabetizing the list prevents this.

Websites that you might find helpful:

www.fafsa.ed.gov – Main website. Videos available on the site about how to fill it out.

www.studentaid.ed.gov  – Different types of aid available to students. How to repay your loans, etc.

www.pin.ed.gov – Pin website. Write it down and keep it somewhere handy.

Respond promptly to any additional requests for information, so that you get processed in the first wave of applicants.

Good Luck!

diploma and gap

What Will a 4 Year College Degree Give You vs. Just a High School Diploma?

About $1M more dollars in salary over your lifetime

A Longer Life Expectancy

More Savings as an Adult

The Ability to Move From Job to Job and City to City if You Want to

Better Decisions on What You Buy

More Hobbies & Leisure Activities

Better Health

More Job Security

Feeling More Optimistic About the Past and Future

Why Go To College:

Where Else Can You Live with Tons of People Your Age

Meet Interesting Fun People

Try New Activities Free

Go To Concerts Free

See Free Movies Shown at the College Before They are on Video

All You Can Eat Buffets Everyday

Join Weird Clubs

Start a New Weird Club

Travel Abroad

Visiting Colleges

Planning

Plan your college visit ahead of time and see a number of suitable colleges in the same geographic area. You can use the website GoSeeCampus.com, and click on Trip Planner which can show you routing from one university to another, as well as nearby hotels. Also, when you input each college on the list it usually gives you links to the colleges’ websites so that you can sign up to attend the information session and the tour. Then it will tell you the distance between the schools, and the roads that you can take. Google Maps also works well for trip planning. Do not plan to visit more than two colleges in a day, as it becomes very stressful and hard to remember the details of each college.

Do You Need to Visit

The general rule of thumb that college admissions counselors use is that if you are within four hours of the school, you should take the time to visit the college to show that you are truly interested in them. Further than four hours the school does not require it, but you will need to show interest, see this article Demonstrate Interest. Most big universities do not track your interest level at all, as it is mostly a numbers game for them. If you have chosen the right classes, you have a GPA the college looks for, and test scores in the college’s range, you should get admitted. Touring colleges will hep you determine what is important to you and broaden you understanding of choices, Options for Visiting a College.

Being Engaged

This college visit is an important opportunity for you to really understand what the college can offer you, and if it is a good fit. Do not let your cell phone or a conversation with a friend distract you from this task. Decide which of these questions you want to ask the tour guide, Questions to ask on a College Visit. Silence your cell phone and be engaged so that you have accurate memories.

Eat at the College

I generally recommend that people go to the cafeteria and eat, so that you have an idea of the quality of food and the atmosphere. Additionally you can either observe students or sit down and talk to some and get a more candid picture of the college. You can learn a lot from students who are on campus and they should answer your questions honestly. Just remember that there are many opinions, but the more information that you have the better your decision will be.

Interviewing

I always recommend visiting schools when they are in session so that you can get a better feel for their students and the atmosphere. This can be done during any holidays or spring breaks, as well as quick visits on Saturdays. Most colleges give two tours on Saturdays and some also do Sunday tours. Going in the fall can be a very busy time for colleges, so you may need to plan quite a bit ahead to make sure you can be part of the group. If it is a college that recommends that you interview with an admissions representative on campus, make sure that I have time to prepare you for the interview.

Use My Checklist

Use a checklist to write down your thoughts, so you won’t confuse information from one college campus with another. While you are on the tour ask questions that you have to the tour guide or the person running the information session. Just realize that these people are not always candid, and most are being paid by admissions to represent the college.

After the visit take the time to record what you really liked, as well as the aspects that you did not. Think about whether that school could be your home for the next four years. Put an approximate rank on the school and feel free to change that as you go. These notes will help you when you need to make a decision at the end.